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Group: Duke doesn't need rate increase for coal ash cleanup

Posted June 10, 2014

Duke Energy closed its coal-fired power plant in Moncure in 2012. But lagoons of toxic coal ash remain on the site near the Cape Fear River.

— A group that conducts research on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment said Tuesday that Duke Energy has enough money to clean up its coal ash ponds across North Carolina and doesn't need to seek a rate increase to pay for it.

Duke has said it would pick up the cost of cleaning up a coal ash spill that fouled about 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge four months ago, but if the Charlotte-based utility is required to clean up the ash at 32 other storage ponds statewide, company officials said they plan to pass as much of the cost as possible to consumers through higher electric rates.

State lawmakers are working on legislation that would set a timetable for Duke to clean up its ash ponds. Depending on the final requirements, Duke officials have said a cleanup could cost anywhere from $2 billion to $10 billion.

The nonprofit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said Duke and its subsidiaries could easily use a combination of operating revenue, increased borrowing, insurance, lower dividends, the sale of non-core assets and adjustments to its capital spending program to finance cleaning up its ash ponds.

“North Carolina residents and Duke Energy are partners,” Tom Sanzillo, the group's director of finance and a former deputy comptroller for New York state, said in a statement. “That means mutual responsibility and mutual commitments. For Duke to seek a rate increase to pay for the coal ash cleanup amounts to a breakdown of its responsibilities and is both one-sided and short-sighted.”

Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said the analysis "greatly oversimplifies" the requirements and complexities of operating a regulated utility, ignores the company’s legal responsibility to maintain a highly reliable electric system and "fails to accurately consider the negative, long-term financial implications on electric customers of its proposed recommendations."

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  • James Kirby Jun 11, 2014

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    Totally agree. I was with Progress Energy. Also how is the people of North Carolina who are partly responsible for cleaning this up? It was Duke Powers to maintain and use and they screwed up. They should pay to clean it up

  • Grand Union Jun 11, 2014

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    Can you show we got any benefit from the creation of the Ash ponds? Bet you can't.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Jun 11, 2014

    Good. They can use the record AC bill profits they are already making this year.

  • Forthe Newssite Jun 11, 2014

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    thank you very much but I was a PROGRESS ENERGY customer while the DUKE coal ash was building up, as were quite a few in NC. do please get facts.

    Everyone should NOT have to pay, but feel free to donate to the DE clean up fund

  • MaxD Jun 11, 2014

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    I couln't agree more! The people of NC want power, but they don't want to pay for the cleanup of the direct by-products of that power generation... Seems a little unfair. You can bet that if Duke Energy had spent the millions of dollars it would have taken to properly dispose of the coal ash in the first place, the customers would have been paying for it. Instead, everyone turned a blind eye and rates stayed low. Well, its time to pay up NC!

  • The_Analyst Jun 11, 2014

    When the first shovelful of coal is loaded to a power plant, these big corporate operators are quite aware that ash will be the immediate result of the operation. NOT a surprise to be found here. Corporate profits should be used to clean this garbage up that they have known and lied about forever.

  • go fish Jun 11, 2014

    "Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said the analysis "greatly oversimplifies" the requirements and complexities of operating a regulated utility"
    and it is the typical response of corporate America to greatly overcomplicate any issue they don't want to fully acknowledge/deal with in the hopes that people will eventually just give up out of frustration and move on, thereby allowing them to continue with their agenda unimpeded

  • Stuck in the snow Jun 11, 2014

    -"Duke officials have said a cleanup could cost anywhere from $2 billion to $10 billion."

    Duke created shareholder profits by creating this mess with a deal with it later attitude. Duke shareholders need to pay for the cleanup end of story! It must be great to own a company with no repercussions for taking profits over doing what's right. Duke knows they should have cleaned up those ponds a long time ago. Now the day has come and they don't have it in the budget and that's our fault. The hard working people of NC need to pay more for Duke's poor business decisions. Corruption if I've ever seen it.

  • Forthe Newssite Jun 11, 2014

    Sure hope DUKE thinks that. I will be absolutely amazed if DE doesn't ask for a rate increase because of this. Hopefully THIS time the UC will deny them since they obviously DO have enough $$. Decrease salaries and benefits to the high paid execs, decrease dividends to the shareholders, quit taking advantage of the public who PAYS those things.

  • Jack Miller Jun 11, 2014

    Sickening. Take it out of the executives salaries and bonuses.

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